Tres Tribus Mezcal Wants You to Experience Agave Like Never Before

The founder of Mijenta is back with a mezcal so beautiful and complex you have to “taste it with your heart”

April 6, 2023 11:16 am
Tres Tribus Mezcal Wants You to Experience Agave Like Never Before

Presented by Tres Tribus

“We wanted to do agave the right way.”

That’s a line you’ll hear Juan Coronado, a co-founder of Tres Tribus mezcal, repeatedly emphasize. Coronado, a longtime drinks professional and mixologist, has already found success in the agave world as the co-founder of the award-winning Mijenta tequila, but with Tres Tribus, he’s found an ideal way to express his admiration for the maguey.

“Mezcal was my first love,” he tells InsideHook. “It’s a beautiful distillate and very complex. And your mezcal is going to depend on the maguey, the region it’s grown, the yeast … basically, the smoke is not everything here.”

And on the first taste of Tres Tribus’s four initial expressions, that description rings true. The mezcal features notes of mango, stone fruit, cherry, banana, cacao and, in one particular instance, even aged gorgonzola (it’s a stunner; we’ll get to that). The “smoke” many people identify with mezcal isn’t an afterthought here, but it’s certainly not the emphasis; it’s more of an earthy hint that serves to enhance the other flavors and aromas.

harvesting and fermenting agave for Tres Tribus mezcal
Tres Tribus

Hailing from the remote mountains of Oaxaca and hand-crafted by fifth-generation mezcalero Juan Antonio Coronel, Tres Tribus — named for the three societies that came together from three surrounding valleys to create the capital of the Zapotec civilization in what is now Oaxaca — showcases a range and complexity that goes beyond other small-batch mezcals. And that comes from its unique preparation: It’s crafted from a wide variety of wild foraged agave. Coronel, an engineer, built his own still from a mixture of copper and other regional materials. And it’s all produced at high altitudes, where the fermentation takes place in underground amphoras (which helps regulate against the fluctuating mountain temperatures) and the water is sourced from the nearby Tidaá volcano aquifer. Even the yeast is wild, a local variety found in the Mixteca region.

The water source is particularly important here. “A lot of mezcal is water, and water is always the downfall of mezcal,” says Coronado. “The water can be bad in some regions. We have a great source of water, from the volcano aquifer. It’s so clean we can drink it straight from the pipes down here.” 

The first single varietal expressions from Tres Tribus beautifully showcase the character of each individual agave. Here, the espadin — by far the most common agave used in mezcal — takes on a wonderfully bright personality, both floral and fruity. The Tobalá is distilled from plants that are on average 10 years old and includes notes of cooked pineapple, figs, quince, cacao and jasmine. Conversely, the Cuishe, which comes from plants that range from 10-25 years old, is herbal, earthy, and quite reminiscent of gorgonzola, at least on the nose (slightly sweeter notes come in on the palate). “It’s malolactic; it’s part of the fermentation process,” says Coronado, noting that cuishe is “the hardest agave to work with.” The final result, however, is utterly unique, a mezcal that would wow mezcal enthusiasts. 

agave used for Tres Tribus mezcal
Tres Tribus

Speaking of fermentation, the final expression — an ensemble distilled from 8-year-old Espadín, Tobalá, Jabalí silvestre (10-15 years old) and rare Salmiana silvestre (15-35 years old) — showcases the art of mezcal. “It’s the highest level of the spirit,” says Coronado. “We have to ferment each agave in a different way and separately, distill them and then do a second distillation together to create the alchemy.” Here, you’ll find an aromatic blend that’s full of stone fruit on the palate (with a bit of sweetness) and some lingering minerality on the finish. It is, indeed a work of art — and your impressions will and should change with each sip. 

At launch, the company is using the phrase “born aged” — while barrel-aged mezcal is not a bad thing and certainly has some history, the idea behind the Tres Tribus tagline is there’s already a built-in complexity and richness to the agave. “The plants already have personality,” Coronado notes. And that personality is further exemplified by the animals (snake, jaguar, owl, bull) that adorn each bottle, each one highlighting some aspect of the region’s mythology; the animals, essentially, “give a face to the maguey.”  

One thing to particularly note about Tres Tribus: Like Mijenta, it’s a B Corp-certified company, which means it meets high standards for social and environmental performance. It’s also one of just a few mezcal brands to earn that certification. “We do good and create good,” says Coronado. “We have nothing to hide; we work with local producers and keep things sustainable.” To that end, the carbon-neutral company has started an ambitious replanting program to replenish agave and trees. The packaging for each bottle and the labels are also purposely environmentally friendly, utilizing recycled glass and paper and reprocessed aluminum.

tres tribus mezcal on the rocks
Tres Tribus

Now, you can try Tres Tribus in cocktails — we wouldn’t necessarily suggest it with, say, the Cuiche, but the range here means you’ll be able to use it in a Mezcal Negroni or in something more floral, tropical or even savory. It’s that versatile.

But Coronado says the best way to drink Tres Tribus is also the easiest: Pouring it neat into a bowl-like copita. “Why mask your drink? I want to see the soul of the mezcal,” he says. “What I always say is, you don’t drink mezcal with your lips, you drink it with your heart. You have to be able to understand it from the inside. Tasting from a little copita, from the palm of your hand, it’s like receiving a gift. It’s a beautiful ceremony. It goes from being a tasting to becoming an experience.” 


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.